Hayden Richards: Taking time to capture space
On the eve of his first photography exhibition, Swellnet chats with Hayden Richards - AKA Rich Richards, AKA Mr SA Rips - who wanders South Australia's desert coast, capturing its many moods. The secret to his unique work, says Rich, is time spent on that timeless coast.
Swellnet: Hey Rich, you've got an exhibition at the Shimmer Festival, is this your first exhibition?
Rich: Yes. It's my first exhibition. In fact, I've never even been to an exhibition before. None.
So the first exhibition you've ever attended is your own..?
Love it! OK a bit of history. Is photography a full-time gig for you?
Well, I was running the caravan park out there [Elliston] up until two years ago, but that ended, so yeah, photohgraphy fills in my days now.
And how long have you been shooting for?
About six years.
That's not a very long time considering the standard you're shooting at. What sort of training did you have?
No training. I went and visited my brother in Melbourne and there was a camera in a shop, so I bought it and that's where it all started. Just a cheap digital SLR camera.
Yes. I just shot a few random people around the streets and whatnot. My bro said, "Shit, they look pretty good," and I just kept doing it. It became addictive. I enjoy doing it and then getting back and looking at the photos and really loving them. I just kept wanting to improve, start experimenting, going down different paths.
I recall a quote from Jon Frank, who I'm sure you're aware of, saying that life didn't make sense to him till he saw world through a viewfinder.
That's pretty spot on for me too. When I'm looking through a viewfinder, it's only then I feel I'm in the moment. I feel like things are coming together. I just feel like I'm a part of the planet more in some way.
That's a peculiar way to put it because you live on a very wild stretch of coast, and more than anyone you've captured the spirit of that coastline.
I'm lucky that my missus gives me time to do what I do, so I can spend a lot of time out in those open spaces. As the months and the years go on, I'm improving and I'm slowly discovering what it is I'm looking for. So it's becoming easier for me. A lot of my work owes itself to time spent out in those rugged places and getting the feel for them.
For example, if I'm at a sand dune area for the first time and I run up the hill, not often do I get the magic straightaway. It could take two, three days in a certain area to get that magic and that's probably feeling that area and just working out its moods.
Again, interesting you say that, because I know some landscape photographers who strategise or plan their work. They can be many hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away, and think about what they're going to shoot. Yet you've actually got to be there, immersed in it.
That's why I prefer landscapes to surf photography. When companies get me on a little mission, say Patagonia and I'm shooting Rasta, I sometimes find that a little bit tricky. I'm not really composing myself and relaxing, but whereas this landscape stuff that everybody is loving at the moment....well, that's the time, I think, just absorbing it all and I'm really feeling it.
Those sand dune shots with the ocean in the background have become signature shots of yours.
It's cool how that stemmed from that 'Natural Mathematics' shot. Yet I didn't plan that geometry at all. I just looked at that shot later on the computer and went, "Wow, there's some geometry going on in that".
That's where it all sort of started from.
So you stumbled across it and then pursued the idea once you realised the power of the composition?
Yes. People love that, don't they?
It sat me on my arse the first time I saw it. It's so rare to see an original photo of the coast. It forced me to sit back and stare at it for a while. Now, let's talk about the exhibition. Who's it for and where's it at?
So it's called the Shimmer Festival and I got a phone call from a lady who's in the Onkaparinga Council. She's running it all. I'm not sure whether she's the founder of the festival itself, but she's the guiding force of it all, A year and a half ago she contacted me and said, "There's been a panel convene and your name's come up a couple of times. How do you feel about joining us in this photography festival?"
At the start I didn't really say, "Yes". I sort of just floated into it, I guess. So it's been a year and a half in the making I've known about it.
Have they pushed you in a certain way regarding the choice of photos or is it entirely up to you?
Yes, it was my choice. I originally started with my analogue 'Dark Slide of the Moon' stuff, but then I did a U-Turn, decided to stick with more of my sand-dune, 'SA Rips' work, thinking that it would probably resonate more than the other, darker, stuff.
How many photos are you exhibiting?
12. It's my first exhibition so I'm going into it a little bit blind. I've never done anything like this. I started off with 22 I, and then got into the room and realised if I wanted to fit that many in they'd be staggered above each other. So I just went with 12 really big pieces.
They were pretty tricky to narrow down. I don't know how many shots I've got on my computer, I must have over 30,000 or something, so I've narrowed it down to 12. My partner, Fiona, she helped a lot.
Now, the opening night is tonight, is that correct?
Yes. [Editor's Note: This interview was conducted last week]
How are you feeling about that?
I'm tired as I barely slept last night because I was thinking about it. They weren't nightmares or anything, but I was waking up in a sweat picturing myself at the show and there were no photos on the wall. That was weird.
Like a different version of that nightmare where you're walking around in public with no clothes on, except in your version the walls are naked.
And I heard there's some big names coming tonight as well. I guess I had that in the back of my mind as well last night. I really want to make this night special, and I think it will be, everything looks pretty amazing up on the wall.
I'm sure they do.